Champions (National!), Among Us

Now that the dust has settled, we’ll be giving some major kudos to one of our own.  Brian Stern and Jeanne DeBonis were recently in Grand Rapids, MI for the Grand Rapids Triathlon.  Stern was there to raise his usual bit of hell.  Jeanne, new SSSMST’er, old skool triathlete, was simply looking for a race to gauge fitness and usher in the start of her taper for Ironman Coeur d’Alane later this month.  Well, it turns out this little training race was for just about all the marbles – Long Course National Championships!  You can guess what happens next…..

Early this year, I registered for my first longer-than-Olympic-distance race after 1.5 years of injury rehab. The race I chose was the Grand Rapids Triathlon (half-ironman) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but I missed a tiny little detail: it was also the USAT Long Course Age Group National Championship (Brian Stern clued me into this oversight at our first team meeting). Yep. I accidentally registered for a national championship while looking for a low-key-let’s-get-back-to-longer-distance-racing-without-expectations kind of race.

Wet running shoes.....not easy to get on!

Wet running shoes…..not easy to get on!

But if you’re looking for a good early-season multisport race, the Grand Rapids Triathlon is several: a half, an Olympic-distance tri, a sprint tri, an aqua-bike in all three distances, and a splash-and-dash. If I had to name a drawback, the only thing I can come up with is that the venue has limited space – meaning there’s a cap on the number of athletes that can participate, and there’s no parking anywhere near the race site (but they do have shuttles from the parking lots).

Hauling ass on the run....and loving it!

Hauling ass on the run….and loving it!

By the time I arrived on race day, I was suffering from lack of sleep (due to nerves the night before) and a head cold (due to.. um..contagious sick people). That morning, however, I felt better than expected, and I knew I would finish even if I had to walk and/or take pit-stops. Actually, the only really bad thing was the rain – it poured from about 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., and the roads were wet and slick through half the bike leg. At least it dried out by the run leg for the long-course athletes.

(l to r) Jeanne, Stern, and newly christened local pro Nick Glavac

(l to r) Jeanne, Stern, and newly christened local pro Nick Glavac

I started with the 40+ women in the fourth wave and got through the swim in one of my personal slowest times ever for 1.2 miles (note: Stern and others thought the course was long because swim times were slow overall). The bike leg was a single loop out-and-back course with long rolling hills – nothing too steep. I had my second-fastest 56-mile bike split ever – 2:37 – but it was only good for 15th fastest of the women. I made up the time on my run leg, averaging 7:12 miles with the 5th fastest run of the day (again, for women) on the 13.1-mile two-loop course. Surprisingly, my finish time of 2:46:21 landed me fifth overall and first in my age group.

Top of the podium!  Only missing the spraying champagne bottle!

Top of the podium! Where’s the spraying champagne bottle!

Age group winners got awesome “National Champion” Rudy bike jerseys and the race served as a qualifier for ITU World Championship in Motala, Sweden. I have yet to decide whether I will take my slot. Right now, I’m still high on being named a USAT Age Group National Champ.

Major congratulations going out to Brian and Jeanne!  This is a first for our team – a standing National Champion!!!!  LOVE IT!!

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